AWO Submits Comments On VIDA Rulemaking

The American Waterways Operators submitted a 17-page comment letter November 24 to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with suggestions to improve its proposed rule establishing performance standards for incidental vessel discharges under the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act (VIDA).

This rulemaking is the first step in the two-part VIDA implementation process; the second step will be a Coast Guard rulemaking to establish corresponding implementation and enforcement requirements. The AWO invited members developing their own substantive comment letters to borrow from it if they wished; the submission deadline was November 25.

When their final version takes effect, the VIDA regulations will supersede all other existing federal and state discharge regulations previously enforced under the Vessel General Permit. The AWO asked that additional language be added making clear that no state, county or multi-state agency could pass or enact any future discharge laws or regulations meant to supplement or add to VIDA, which is supposed to be a single national standard.

The letter raised concerns about proposed exemptions for unmanned, unpowered barges. It also suggested that that the Coast Guard, when making its rules, reduce record-keeping and reporting requirements that add to cost and burden while doing little or nothing to reduce environmental hazards.

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The AWO requested clarity in the use of a phrase “incompatible materials”; the verbiage in question prohibited the mixing of “incompatible materials” or “incompatible wastes,” but it didn’t define those terms.

The AWO also asked that proposed language suggesting that cargoes be covered with a tarp be altered to acknowledge that many hopper barges do not have covers or do not cover cargoes with tarps, and that requiring tarp coverings may in many cases be unsafe. They requested language leaving that to the discretion of the vessel operator.

The full letter is available on AWO’s website.